Even before the pandemic, Amazon was delivering 4.5 billion packages a year to American consumers, the equivalent of 14 packages per person. The pandemic has been a boon for Amazon, one of the few companies to benefit. It’s also been a boon to thieves, though even before the pandemic, package theft or loss from front doors had hit an all-time high of 1.7 million packages every day.
Package thieves are now commonly called “porch pirates,” and on Tuesday, the agency arrested two of them, both out-of-towners who were allegedly using Palm Coast to treasure-hunt for their Ali Baba cave.
Kimberly Ann Dowdy, 26, and Michael L. Pavlov, 24, are both residents of 5109 Ridge Avenue in Canton, south of Akron, Ohio. They were in Palm Coast’s K Section Tuesday afternoon.
A Kalamazoo Trail resident called the Sheriff’s Office to report that at 3:20 that afternoon she’d received Amazon’s notice that a package–related to Valentine’s Day–was delivered at her front door at 3:20 p.m. The resident, who works from home, noticed on her Ring Doorbell–the video-equipped surveillance device–that a woman wearing “sloppy” clothes, her hair in a ponytail–but masked–crossed the front lawn, walked up to the front door, grabbed the package and walked off, slightly more hurried than when she walked in.
The same evening Sheriff’s deputies responded to another address, on Kashmir Trail, reporting a similar incident that had taken place around the same time frame. In that case, the woman who’d walked up to the front porch to steal the package also “discarded a piece of trash” on the porch before taking the resident’s property, placing it in the back of a car and driving away. That incident was also captured on a Ring Doorbell. Clothing and earrings were in the package.
The Kashmir Trail resident recognized the woman from the Kalamazoo Trail theft. The vehicle the suspects used was also the same in both surveillance clips. A deputy saw a Cadillac matching the description of the vehicle driving south on U.S. 1 near Seminole Boulevard and pulled the car over. It had temporary Ohio plates taped to the left of the designated space for tags. The man and woman in the car would later be identified as Dowdy and Pavlov.
Pavlov told deputies he and Dowdy were traveling through Florida as wandering tourists. They’d left Pavlov’s cousin’s house in Jacksonville and didn’t have a particular destination in mind. Pavlov conceded that he saw Dowdy take packages from front porches. “He did think that what Dowdy was doing was suspicious but she told him that she worked for Amazon and that she needed him to take her to these locations,” according to his arrest report. “Dowdy allegedly told him that she needed to pick up the packages and take them to a different location but did not specify further.”
A search of the car recovered the stolen packages along with other packages believed to be stolen from other jurisdictions, the Sheriff’s Office said.
He said Dowdy has a drug addiction and “will do anything to obtain money to fund her habit and he does what he can to assist her in the process,” the report states. “Pavlov admitted to being an enabler of her addiction and stated that he knew what she was doing was not right but decided to believe that she was conducting legitimate business.” Dowdy did not dispute the account.
As the pair was being booked at the county jail on burglary charges, Dowdy told a deputy that she had methamphetamine in her possession, which added a charge of meth possession. Both were held on $16,000 (Pavlov) and $19,000 (Dowdy) bond at the jail.
“This is a great example of how residents seeing something and saying something along with technology and good police work can come together to solve crimes and stop criminals in their tracks and directly to jail while quickly returning stolen property,” Sheriff Staly said. “I want to commend the victims for taking their security seriously by installing security cameras which assisted our deputies in locating these offenders and stopping their crime spree. To anyone else thinking that stealing a package is a good idea, our community is not going to stand for it. We will find you, you will be arrested and you will go to jail.”
Amazon has been combatting thefts in various ways, among them the installation of “Hub Lockers” or pick-up locations (there is one at Belk’s in Palm Coast) and affording customers an Amazon Key, which enables a delivery person to leave packages inside the customer’s garage, in a vehicle trunk or even inside the house.
Several states have enacted porch piracy laws, making it a felony to steal a package after delivery, among them Oklahoma, Michigan and Texas, with one such law pending before the South Carolina Legislature. Florida doesn’t yet have such a law, leaving law enforcement to enforce existing laws against theft, such as burglary in this case, since the alleged thieves crossed into the homes’ property.